This week I attended “SACReD Faith Communities: Reclaiming Reproductive Dignity and Autonomy,” an energizing Zoom gathering of ministers and lay people. More than 30 faith traditions (Unitarian Universalist congregations were well represented!) gathered to discuss reproductive justice and freedom as we face the reality that Roe v. Wade will likely be overturned. Twenty-six states are prepared to limit abortion access when it happens.
Discussing abortion is a provocative, uncomfortable, and sacred conversation. It is a sacred responsibility to have the ability to bring forth life and nurture that child into adulthood. Because faith communities and religious beliefs shape congregants’ understanding of sexuality, faith communities have a role to play in advocating for reproductive justice and body autonomy. It is part of the commitment to building the Beloved Community where all have dignity, freedom and the potential to thrive.
Our denomination recognizes the sacredness of sexuality. It acknowledges its importance to our thriving as human beings by promoting comprehensive sexuality education. The Our Whole Lives (OWL) program equips participants throughout the lifespan and in developmentally appropriate ways to understand sexuality and to engage in healthy, responsible decision-making. OWL is grounded in the values of self-worth, sexual health, responsibility, justice, and inclusivity. One of the reasons I converted to Unitarian Universalism, yes converted, meaning I embraced it as my religion and one of my identities, is because of my involvement in OWL as a facilitator for 8 years. I did not grow up in a sex-positive environment and belonging to a religion that promotes healthy sexuality, welcoming the whole self, helped me to heal and embrace the totality of who I am. I see no conflict between celebrating the right of a person who can get pregnant to choose if and when to give birth and celebrating the joy and sacred responsibility of childbirth. Our commitment to humanity as humanists, deists, Christians – indeed, all denominations – must include a commitment to providing for the coming generations while leaving choice in the hands of the future caregivers of those generations. Provisions for postnatal services, child care, affordable housing, a living wage, comprehensive and equal educational opportunities and other basic human needs – these merit passionate support alongside the issue of abortion rights. It is a “yes, and” situation! Justice work is multi-dimensional.
An extension of embracing the values of justice and inclusivity is recognizing that people who can get pregnant have a right to make choices about their pregnancies without decisions being made for them by the government. Choosing to become a parent and carry a pregnancy to term is a private decision. Although subjected to restrictions, Roe v. Wade supports autonomy for people who can get pregnant in the face of patriarchy, religious dogma, and political manipulation. Limiting their autonomy denies them the right to make decisions for themselves.
As I said earlier, abortion is a provocative, uncomfortable and sacred conversation. The purpose of this blog is to acknowledge that some of us are concerned about the increasing likelihood that people who can get pregnant will not have safe, accessible options to full-term pregnancies regardless of the circumstances. If you share this concern and would like to explore ways we can speak up for reproductive justice, please reach out to me.
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development